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New Kentucky bourbon distillery bringing historic Camp Nelson site back to life

·3 min read

An old Kentucky bourbon name is coming back to life: E.J. Curley & Co. announced plans to start a distillery in Jessamine County.

The new E.J. Curley distillery will be on the site of the historic original at Camp Nelson, where the Curley distillery began operating in the late 1860s, according to a news release. It operated under various names and sold brands, including Blue Grass Bourbon and Boone’s Knoll Bourbon, before Prohibition. After repeal, it was known as Kentucky River Distillery until it closed in the late 1960s-early 1970s.

The new company will invest more than $5 million into the site, creating an expected 52 full-time jobs with an average hourly wage of $37 including benefits.

Gov. Andy Beshear announced the revival on Thursday after the Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority approved $400,000 in two tax incentives for the project.

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According to the state, the E.J. Curley project will include building a 22,500-square-foot facility at 7777 Old Danville Rd. at the Kentucky River Palisades at Camp Nelson. They plan to offer a traditional bourbon as well as a “first-of-its-kind Kentucky-blended international spirit,” according to a news release.

Production is expected to being by May 2022.

The distillery plans to launch an E.J. Curley & Co. Revival Tour later this year, where visitors can buy spirits and mixed drinks, visit historic nature trails and enjoy other experiences.

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“The continued growth of the bourbon industry in our state is great news for the future of Kentucky and our residents,” Beshear said in a statement. “E.J. Curley & Co. is bringing back a historic distillery to our state, and this new venture will create quality job opportunities in Jessamine County and the surrounding region. Thank you to the leaders at E.J. Curley for this commitment to the commonwealth, and I look forward to watching the company grow well into the future.”

Many families in the region have historic ties to the former distillery, said Jessamine County Judge Executive David West. “E.J. Curley Distillery has deep roots in Jessamine County that go back to its beginnings after the Civil War.”

Kentucky now has 66 spirits operations employing more than 5,100 people full-time statewide, according to the governor’s office. In 2020, the industry announced 20 projects in Kentucky, totaling more than $300 million in new investment and nearly 230 projected jobs.

It expects to become a major tourism draw for Jessamine County, which has no other bourbon distilleries at the moment. An estimated 100,000 visitors are projected annually, according to the release.

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“Phase 1 jobs will include distilling operations, management personnel, sales and other key positions,” said Rick Baker, CEO of E.J. Curley. “Within 18-24 months, Phase 2 will be supported by $10 million in new capital investment to increase production capacity to 15,000 to 18,000 barrels per year with significant rickhouse storage, also in Jessamine County.”

“Several years in the making, this project has seen several potential investors,” said Craig McAnelly, executive director of the Jessamine County Joint Economic Development Authority. “Knowing the rich history and story to be told, we’re certain this site will someday become a destination location for Kentucky. Jobs produced by this distillery won’t just come from manufacturing but will also be generated by tourism.”

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